[This post is a part of the Youth Ministry 101 Series]
Talking to teenagers can be intimidating. They have their own styles of clothing and music and talk about things that you likely don't understand. But for some reason you may feel like you need to talk to them. Perhaps this is because it is your job to raise a teenager or perhaps it is because for some reason God put in you a desire to serve teenagers and help show them Jesus. Regardless of what your situation is, having a conversation with a teenager can be a difficult thing at first. But with some patience, you will hopefully be able to move beyond grunting (usually experienced with teenage boys) and get to something a little more meaningful.
What Should I Do?
Approach them. If you have an interest in talking to teenagers, show that interest. Approach them and try to start a conversation. It may seem awkward if you haven't done this before, but over time, once a relationship has been established, the conversation will flow more naturally.
Be yourself. One of the worst things you can do is feel like you have to be someone else. It is certainly helpful to learn to understand dynamics of teenage culture, but don't pretend to be hip and understand everything. Don't pretend you like to skateboard and go to rock concerts if you don't. Authenticity will go much further than trendy clothes.
Ask questions. What's a relationship if you don't begin to get to know the other person? Ask as many questions as possible? Learn about school, sports, family, hobbies, and anything that you could think of. These may be little things, but what relationship do you have that doesn't at least establish some interest in what the other person likes. What's difficult about this, is that in certain situations asking questions may feel like pulling teeth. Keep asking them.
Remember things. The best way to show that you are really interested is to remember what the teenager shared with you. Remember their name. The next week when you see them, ask about the basketball game they referenced was coming up. Follow up on a prayer request that was made the following week. The more you make a point to follow up on things that were previously brought up, the more that students will realize how much you care.
Photo Credit: SMcGarnigle